One Fifth and One Sixth

Prokofiev Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, Op. 100 (1944)

For more on the Fifth Symphony, listen to David Nice on BBC3 here.

Shostakovich Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 54 (1939)

Isaak Glikman said of responses to the Sixth Symphony:

Naturally, I hid from the composer the inevitable musicians’ talk. With rare exceptions, it drove me to despair. Some musicians held that the conceited young composer, having dared to break with the tradition of the symphonic cycle, had produced a formless piece in three movements. Others maliciously implied that Shostakovich had locked himself away in an ivory tower, and no longer knew what was going on around him; the result was that the opening Largo was so dull and inert as to bring on a stupefied torpor. And a third group just laughed goodheartedly, saying that the finale was nothing more than a depiction of a football match with its successes and reversals of fortune. [Elizabeth Wilson, Shostakovich, A Life Remembered, Second Edition, p. 164]

Listen to Paavo Järvi talk about the Sixth Symphony at about 13:40 here.

For more on the Sixth Symphony, click here.

With thanks to David Nice for identifying these performances and for the continued illuminating commentary in his Russian Music course.

The images used in the post may be found here and here.

Revisiting Dylan Mattingly’s Achilles Dreams of Ebbets Field

It’s been well over four years since I attended the premiere of Dylan Mattingly’s Achilles Dreams of Ebbets Field. At the time, I wrote:

. . . the vital, fearless pianist Kathleen Supové invited Mattingly to compose a work for piano—anything he wanted, of any length. Could Supové, or even Mattingly himself, outsized dreamer though he is, have predicted just how big it would become? Continue reading

Going Back to the Bolsheviks

Mikhail Larionov, Portrait of Sergei Prokofiev (1921)

The 1920s in the Soviet Union, as elsewhere, were roaring with invention. Sergei Prokofiev, after several years abroad, returned to Russia in 1927. On the day of his departure, January 13, he wrote in his diary: Continue reading

A Trio of String Octets

The 18-year-old Shostakovich, photographed June 28, 1925, two days before he completed his Symphony No. 1.

Dmitri Shostakovich composed his Prelude and Scherzo for String Octet, Op. 11 (1925) when he was only eighteen, the same year in which he composed his Symphony No. 1.

Shostakovich originally composed the prelude in December 1924 as an elegy to the poet (and his close personal friend) Volodya Kurchavov; the scherzo was added seven months later. [cite] Continue reading

What can I do to have nothing again?

Eric Bromberger wrote, in a program note for Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat:

Stravinsky spent the difficult period of World War I in Switzerland. The war prevented productions of Stravinsky’s music, halting his income, and the Russian Revolution cut him off from his homeland. Now Stravinsky became friends with the Swiss novelist C.F. Ramuz and suggested that they create a theater-piece based on two Russian folktales about the devil and a soldier. The version that Ramuz and Stravinsky created became L’Histoire du SoldatThe Soldier’s Tale–completed in 1918 . . . . Continue reading